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Research profile: Hélène Deval
Assistant Professor of Marketing
How long have you been at Dal?
I have been at Dal for four years.
Tell us about your research and what drove you into those topics.
I started my PhD with the idea of doing strategy research, possibly cross-cultural corporate strategy, but as I progressed I started to be more and more fascinated with the way people think and make decisions: from what laundry detergent to use to accepting or not accepting a dinner invitation, we make hundreds of decisions every day and we do not have the resources to think carefully and rationally about all of them. We all use shortcuts and heuristics, that's what I'm interested in.
My research can be summarized with two words: consumer inference. It starts when information stops. Marketing communication is by nature short, incomplete and not always trustworthy. Consumers typically have only limited information to make judgements about products and services. What conclusions do they draw for themselves?
Can you share with us some of your works-in-progress?
One research project that is still in its infancy has to do with alphanumeric brand names. There is a lot of research on brand names and what makes a good one: memorable, distinctive, etc. But a lot of brand names and product names include numbers. Some of them have meanings: remember when computers used to include the speed of their processors in their names? Yes, like your old Olivetti Xana 133 that had a 133MHz Intel processor. Now, some numbers included do not reflect an actual feature of the product, like the Gruntmaster 6000. I'm interested in how these numbers can affect people's evaluation.
How does your research affect business practice or what are some of the implications for the real world?
My research is mainly about understanding the principles that apply behind evaluation mechanisms. And in that regard it has two main applications: it can be used to establish rules on how to better communicate and it can also be used for consumer education. People can only correct biases when they know about them.
How does your research impact and support/enhance your teaching?
Research feeds teaching as much as teaching feeds research. Of course, when my research is directly relevant to what I'm teaching, I include it in class. I tend to be very passionate about what I do and I think students appreciate the enthusiasm. They love the anecdotes and also hearing about what was tried but did not work (which is clearly never published). But I sometimes find research ideas based on small everyday occurrences, including comments from my students.
What advice would you give to fellow young researchers?
Scheduling is everything! Your research time can be eaten away by all the other things you are doing that have sometimes clearer and shorter deadlines. Set aside time to do research in a formal way.
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